It’s the fear of the unknown that often pulls potential clients away from the small business and pushes them toward the popular brand name. It’s nothing personal. But if things don’t work out, it’s a lot easier for the decision maker to justify going with a market leader than an unknown company.
With that looming as a barrier to success, what can small staffing firms do to set themselves apart from well-known brand names and national corporations?
1. Show no fear
If you can tell that your client is thinking about going with a larger corporation to meet their staffing needs and that this visit with you is just a courtesy, you need to address it.
“You want to present them in a great light,” Lavinsky says. “ ‘Hey, that would be a great decision if you use these big guys. Here’s the great thing about the big guys. But here’s the downside and what you get from working with us.’ Taking the high road is going to make you look phenomenal.”
2. Don’t dwell on price
You may be able to get in the door with a client by offering them a steeply discounted price on your services. But once you go down that road, you’ve made it nearly impossible for your firm to turn a healthy profit.
“Once you cut your prices, you’re going to be seen as a low-cost provider,” he says. “It’s going to be very hard to raise your prices later and you’re not going to make any money. Maybe you’ll have a lot of clients, but you’re not going to have any profit in your business.”
3. Guarantee your service
Do you trust your people to do a great job, wherever you may send them to work? If you do, you shouldn’t have any problem making promises to your clients.
“We’re going to guarantee this works out for you,” Lavinsky says. “If it doesn’t work out, we’ll eat the cost. We’ll refund 100 percent of your money and we’ll guarantee we will find a replacement within 24 hours. We’re going to minimize your downside so you don’t lose any money if the person doesn’t work out.”
4. Build lasting relationships
You’ve got a place in your community with employees who know people. You know people. Take advantage of those relationships and build on them in a way that larger corporations can’t compete.
“If you serve a customer once, your life will be more miserable than you could ever imagine,” he says. “Every month, you start from zero and all your salespeople are constantly searching for new clients. You would much rather have 20 clients that you serve over and over again than 50 clients that you serve one time.”
So once you get clients, make sure you retain them. Follow up with them by phone or email or even a written letter. See if there are other ways you can service their needs.
“You have to keep giving them notes and jogging their memory,” he adds. “Lifetime customer value is getting your clients and really servicing them, keeping in touch with them and getting them to give you more business, as well as referring others to you.”